Angela Merkel’s rival Peer Steinbrück critical of eurozone austerity ahead of elections


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The Independent Online

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her centre-left rival sparred over Europe’s debt crisis and how best to keep Germany’s economy strong as they faced each other on Sunday evening in a televised debate ahead of elections on 22 September, with Ms Merkel’s challenger insisting that it makes no sense to apply a “deadly dose” of austerity to eurozone strugglers.

Her challenger, Peer Steinbrück, went into the 90-minute debate  – the pair’s only direct TV encounter of the campaign – facing a daunting poll deficit and needing a strong performance after a summer in which the opposition has struggled to land blows on the popular conservative incumbent.

Neither contender scored a knockout blow or made a major mistake, and polls conducted by broadcasters showed no clear winner.

In his opening statement, Mr Steinbrück portrayed Germany as having “gone round in circles, without direction” under Ms Merkel’s centre-right coalition over the past four years.

Ms Merkel has benefited from a healthy economy, low unemployment and perceptions that she has managed Europe’s debt crisis well.

She touted that record as the debate opened, pointing to high employment and portraying Germany as “the motor of growth” and “the anchor of stability” in Europe.